HIMSS Praises Stimulus Package Allocating $19.2 Billion to Healthcare IT

 

February 17, 2009

February 17, 2009 – In response to President Obama signing the $787 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 into law today, the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) said it predicts the inclusion of $19.2 billion for health IT will have important economic benefits and result in improved patient care.

The stimulus package allocates the $19.2 billion to modernize health information technology systems; another $87 billion to help states with Medicaid; $10 billion is designated for health research and construction of National Institutes of Health facilities; and $21 billion will provide a 60 percent subsidy of healthcare insurance premiums for the unemployed under the COBRA program.

Of the $19.2 billion for health IT, $2 billion is for the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC); and $17.2 billion will provide incentives through the Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement systems to reward providers and eligible professionals that demonstrate a meaningful use of certified electronic health record (EHR) technology.

In a statement from HIMSS today, the society said “[HIMSS] believes the health IT funding is essential if we are to meet President Obama’s goal of computerized health records for all Americans by 2014.”

HIMSS praises the bill for taking into account the challenges of healthcare adopting EHR technology. “In drafting this legislation, policy-makers demonstrated that they are listening to Americans’ views on health IT,” the society said.

Adding, “The legislation addresses the foremost reason many doctors and hospitals have not yet begun using electronic health record (EHR) systems. Survey results published in the July 3, 2008, issue of The New England Journal of Medicine found that 66 percent of doctors who had not adopted an EHR system cited cost as the biggest barrier to adoption. Through the legislation, doctors and hospitals are now eligible for incentive payments through Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement systems, rewarding them for demonstrating a “meaningful use” of certified EHR technology.”

HIMSS anticipates that the adoption of EHRs will contribute to annual healthcare cost savings of as much as $77 billion. The Society also pointed to potential benefits to patients and doctors that include fewer medical errors and reduced administrative delays.

The legislation codifies the ONC and two federal advisory committees (the HIT Standards Committee and the HIT Policy Standards), and provides for grant and loan programs to assist providers and consumers in adopting and utilizing health IT. It also includes a number of privacy and security provisions that aim to strengthen privacy protections for electronic health information through activities that apply the security provisions and penalties as directed by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) to business associates of covered entities and prohibit the sale of a patient’s medical information without the permission of the patient.

Additional funding for health IT is as follows:

- $4.7 billion for the National Telecommunications and Information Administration’s Broadband Technology Opportunities Program;

- $2.5 billion for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Distance Learning, Telemedicine, and Broadband Program;

- $1.5 billion for the community health centers through the Health Resources and Services Administration;

- $500 million for the Social Security Administration;

- $85 million for the Indian Health Service; and

- $50 million for the Veterans Benefits Administration.

For more information: www.himss.org

Photo courtesy of Barack Obama Free Stock Wallpapers (barackobama.imagelibrarys.com)

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